Merton: ‘The silence of the forest is the root of all the secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world’

‘I cultivate this plant silently in the middle of the night and water it with psalms and prophecies in silence.’

Richard Rohr, Nov. 26, 2020:

Curiously, what remains hidden or obscure in [Merton’s] very public discourse on matters of the sacred is the significance that the natural world played as the ecstatic ground of his own experience of God. But a close reading of his voluminous writings reveals his intimate rapport with and progressive espousal of creation as the body of divinity—at once veiling and unveiling the God he so longed to behold and be held by. [1]

[Merton] chose to live alone in the forest as refuge for his own existential pain, but also to make reparation for the violation of earth and earth peoples. Here he became a poet, a protester, a prophet . . . [2]

Deignan’s selections from Merton’s journals demonstrate how his love for nature (he even calls the forest his “bride”) leads him to grieve and denounce nature’s abuse:

Thomas Merton:

I love the woods, particularly around the hermitage. Know every tree, every animal, every bird. [3]

It is necessary for me to live here alone without a woman, for the silence of the forest is my bride and the sweet dark warmth of the whole world is my love, and out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence, but it is the root of all the secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world. I have an obligation to preserve the stillness, the silence, the poverty, the virginal point of pure nothingness which is at the center of all other loves. I cultivate this plant silently in the middle of the night and water it with psalms and prophecies in silence. It becomes the most beautiful of all the trees in the garden, at once the primordial paradise tree, the axis mundi, the cosmic axle, and the Cross. [4]

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